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Retired Couple Starts Thriving Tomato Business
After 25 years of farming in Brazil, Dennis Loewen and his wife Vera moved to northeastern North Dakota and began a new career as tomato growers. “We knew nothing about tomatoes or greenhouses, but a relative offered to sell us a 4,300 sq. ft. greenhouse and we learned the business through trial and error,” says Loewen, owner of Meadowlark Garden in Park River, N. Dak.
The Loewens grow Beefsteak and several other varieties of cherry and cocktail tomatoes. After harvesting, they’re packed in boxes and delivered to restaurants and retailers in Fargo, Grand Forks and other communities in eastern North Dakota.
“Growing and selling vine-ripened tomatoes is a good retirement job because it requires no heavy work,” Loewen says, “Plus, I just enjoy working with plants and figuring out what nutrients and nurturing the tomato plants need to produce to their genetic capability.”
The Loewens buy six-week-old tomato seedlings in February and plant them in bags of soil that are watered with drip tubes. The plants begin setting fruit by the end of April and bear fruit all spring, summer and fall. Bumblebees in the greenhouse aid in pollinating the tomato flowers.
Because indeterminate plants continue to grow vertically, the plants are pruned to optimize production, with some vines stretching out to 25 ft. ”We let the vines grow horizontally and vertically and the vines keep flowering at the top through the fall,” Loewen says.
The greenhouse employs a heating system that doubles as a work saver. Parallel pipes positioned a few inches above the floor deliver hot-water heat and are also used as rails for a rolling cart to hold picked fruit. They also hold workers as they roll forward or backward to pick ripe tomatoes twice a week.
The greenhouse doesn’t have auxiliary lighting, relying totally on sunshine that passes through the greenhouse glass. Overhead radiators supply heat in early spring and winter.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dennis Loewen, Meadowlark Garden, 13515 70th St. N.E., Park River, N. Dak. 58270 (Facebook: meadowlarkgarden).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #1